Aragon Pharmaceuticals Moves to First Clinical Trial with $22M

Xconomy San Diego — 

Venture capitalists are placing a big bet on a San Diego startup’s new approach to treating cancers by targeting certain hormones. Aragon Pharmaceuticals reports this morning that it plans to use $22 million raised in its Series B round of funding to advance its lead drug for prostate cancer into an initial clinical trial.

Aragon, launched in May 2009, has raked in the funding from new investor Aisling Capital of New York City as well as OrbiMed Advisors of New York City and The Column Group in San Francisco. The Column Group and OrbiMed were the venture backers in Aragon’s $8 million Series A round last spring. The startup has now raised $30 million in venture funding.

The fresh cash is expected to fund a Phase I clinical trial of ARN-509 that is due to begin in the middle of this year. The company wants to develop the drug for prostate cancers that can’t be wiped out by existing drugs that seeks to cut off the supply of testosterone to tumors. The Aragon drug is intended to target certain proteins that typically bind with testosterone, which can cause prostate tumors to grow out of control. Aragon also is researching other drugs for a similar approach to treating breast cancer.

“The Column Group values and invests in ‘big ideas’ like Aragon’s approach to developing treatments that circumvent the challenges of drug resistance in hormone-sensitive cancers,” said Peter Svennilson, a managing partner of The Column Group and chairman of Aragon, in a statement. “We are excited with the company’s progress to date and very supportive as Aragon moves ARN-509 into the clinic and continues to build its drug discovery pipeline.”

Aragon’s scientific founders are Charles Sawyers, a researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Michael Jung, a UCLA professor of chemistry and biochemistry.